Sunday, February 09, 2014

Collector's Corner: Irish Brigade officer's effects

A tintype of Richard Bentley, who as a major in the 63rd New York was wounded in the arm during 
the Irish Brigade's attack at Bloody Lane at Antietam. (Images courtesy Joseph Maghe)
Collector Joseph Maghe purchased these boots and the other  effects of Bentley shown below
 at a Civil War show in Nashville.
Bentley's belt and buckle.
Richard Bentley's trunk. His name is stenciled on the front.
Bentley carried this sword and scabbard during the Civil War.

In the first installment of a semi-regular blog feature on Civil War collections, the effects of Irish Brigade officer Richard Charles Bentley are shown. I hereby dub this "Collector's Corner." Genius! Joseph Maghe, whose collection focuses on men of Irish birth, Irish parentage or who served in Irish-American regiments, generously supplied these images of his impressive Bentley collection as well as terrific information about the officer. Initially interested in edged weapons, Maghe has collected Civil War since 1985, when he purchased a M1860 cavalry saber at a show in Tampa, Fla., while on vacation with his family.  He purchased the Bentley items from a major dealer at the Nashville Civil War Show. A shipping merchant and an insurance agent from Albany, N.Y. before the war, Bentley was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 30th New York  in May 1861. He was discharged for promotion into the 63rd New York on Feb. 14. 1862.

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Carte-de-visite of Bentley's wife, Mary. (Photo courtesy Joseph Maghe)
In a vast rural cemetery outside Albany, N.Y., among the graves of a U.S. president, a president's son and Revolutionary War generals, rest the remains of a well-regarded Irish Brigade officer who survived a wound at Antietam and brushes with death at two other major battles. "... a better nor braver man could not be found to draw a sword in the defence of his country," a soldier wrote home about Richard C. Bentley after the officer was wounded in the head at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. "I hope soon to have the pleasure of informing you of the entire recovery of our gallant Lieutenant-Colonel, and of his return to duty. We can ill afford to spare such men from the field in the present disturbed state of the country."

At Antietam, Bentley served as major in the 63rd New York, one of the hardest-fighting regiments of the war and part of the famed Irish Brigade. Wounded in the arm during the attack at Bloody Lane, he was sent to the rear. Bentley, who for weeks was unable to mount a horse after he suffered the wound, returned to the 63rd and was promoted to lieutenant colonel and commander of the regiment on Oct. 25, 1862. Bentley suffered another wound at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863, when a shell burst in front of him and a piece struck him in the right side of the head.

Bentley's children. (Photo courtesy Joseph Maghe)
"We have had a terrible battle, lasting since Thursday. I went in yesterday, commanding the balance of my regiment and the 69th (New York) put together, about 160 men," Bentley wrote to his father two days after the battle. "We did not get under musketry fire, but the shelling was terrible. As I marched along the road to get in position, a shell struck in the centre of my line and killed one and wounded two men of the 69th. I received a piece of shell, burst in the air, on the head, which passed through the centre of the top of my hat, grazing my head, without cutting out the side, through the rim, and tore through my coat, vest and shirt, at the back of my left shoulder.

"I remained in command nearly an hour before I felt any effect, save a slight shock. The sun was very hot, and after getting them into the last position they occupied before being withdrawn, I sat down and keeled over and was taken to the rear. To-day I am all right, save some pain in the head and back, but nothing to notice." The wound left Bentley, who also suffered from sunstroke at Chancellorsville, with slight paralysis in his left arm, leg and face.

During fighting in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, Bentley survived another close call. He commanded the Irish Brigade, consisting of the 63rd, 69th and 88th regiments, when another shell burst near him, causing another wound in his left leg. The brigade suffered 24 casualties that day, nearly a third of the its 75 men.

Like so many Civil War veterans, Bentley couldn't escape the trauma of the Civil War. He died in Albany, N.Y. on Dec.1, 1871, from effects of his Chancellorsville head wound, according to Dr. Charles P. Staats, who was the assistant surgeon in the 63rd New York. He was only 40 years old.

A shamrock is carved at the top of Irish Brigade officer Richard Bentley's grave
 in Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, N.Y. See Google map below.
(Photo courtesy Dave Whitaker)

1 comment:

  1. John, very well done. You have gleaned and written very well... I congratulate you on your work.